A rally held in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en’s struggle against the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline took placeOct. 29. Organized byManitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC), the rally’s demonstrators demandingRBC divest from fossil fuel projects.
One of the speakers, BrielleBeardy-Linklater, said activists need to “target people who are making money off of this colonization.”
“We need to talk about the police violence that is happening in our Indigenous communities because it is connected to these projects,” she said.
“RBC is funding genocide.”
“These resource [extraction projects]lead to the deprivation of our traditional ways of life. They erase us as a people. We don’t even have the autonomy to make the decision […] to invest in green energy because these capitalist corporations have all the [...] power and all the influence within our society.”
Tensions around the CGL pipeline flared again last month when activists established a blockade to prevent drilling underneath the Morice River (Wedzin Kwa) in Gidimt’en clan territory in northwest B.C.
Police arrested two people at the worksite in late September. Activists posted videos online showing RCMP officers draining water cisterns at the blockade camp and using “pain compliance”techniques to remove a protester blocking access to Wet’suwet’en territory.
“It is important to always let these companies know that the people are aware of the ongoing violence towardsIndigenous land defenders, the violence that they fund and are [culpable for],” said Quinn Amos, a 22-year-old Indigenous speaker at the rally.
“Shame on RBC for not defunding CGL and shame on our government for allowing all of this violence to continue.”
She also connected the Wet’suwet’en’s struggle for sovereignty to climate change, saying “land defenders are not criminals. They can seethe bleak future that CGL is creating.”
“We are doing this for everyone so that everyone has a future to rely on, our children can see how beautiful our land is and so we can continue our way of life and our traditions.”
A recent report from the IndigenousEnvironmental Network and Oil Change International analyzed the effect ofIndigenous activism on greenhouse gas emissions from 20 fossil fuel projects in the U.S. and Canada and found blockades have stopped or delayed emissions equivalent to roughly 25 per cent of annual carbon emissions from the two countries.
Truck pushes through crowd
It was when demonstrators blocked traffic on Portage Avenue that a black pickup truck pushed through the crowd.
Beardy-Linklater said in addition to herself, three other people including her aunt were pushed by the truck. One protester jumped onto the hood of the vehicle while it was moving.Demonstrators immediately swarmed the vehicle and attempted to block it from leaving by forming a line in front of it.Eventually the line broke and the truck was able to drive away.
Beardy-Linklater said the truck driver“appeared to be dressed in the attire worn by […] fire paramedics.”
She said the rally’s organizers were currently reviewing footage of the incident to try and identify the driver.
Though she is a “police abolitionist,”Beardy-Linklater said in this case she felt compelled to contact police about the incident to protect other demonstrators.
Government subsidizes questionable pipeline investments
While supporters of CGL argue that the pipeline is a good public investment that will create jobs, others, such as economist Robyn Allan, have disputed the viability of the project.
“I am aware […] that the project has been heavily subsidized from the beginning because of a lack of commercial viability, that it will rely on heavily subsidized natural gas fracking to supply the pipeline [and] that transmission lines for electricity are being subsidized,” she told the Manitoban in an email.
Since 2018, prices for liquefied natural gas have plummeted by 80 per cent and are expected to stay low for the foreseeable future, seriously undermining the market.
A recent report from the International Institute for SustainableDevelopment found governments in Canada have spent over $23 billion supporting pipeline projects in Canada since 2018, and described them as risky investments of public money.
In some cases, governments have been more willing to finance pipeline projects than private industry. Governments in Canada have subsidized or directly invested in projects the private sector has declined to fund, including projects that would not have proceeded without financial support.
The report found the private sector is increasingly unwilling to make significant investments on large, long-term infrastructure projects like these and governments have filled the investment gap.
In spring this year, the government granted TC Energy a $500 million loan to complete the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
“Loans of this nature are generally because the private sector will not provide them because the project’s viability is not sound enough,” Allan argued.
Other major fossil fuel projects in Canada have also struggled to get off the ground, with investors abandoning Trans Mountain, the government buying Kinder Morgan when private investors would not step up and Keystone XL being cancelled altogether.